Exercise Aids Depression

A man getting some exercise outdoors
A man getting some exercise outdoors (source)

People often exercise with specific physical goals in mind, such as increasing endurance or strength, or to alter their appearance by building muscle or losing weight. Many people also point to an improved mood as a reason for exercise, and recent research done by a group from Iowa State University has shown positive effects for people that suffer from depression.

The researchers surveyed people that were experiencing depression before, during, and after physical exercise. For two major characteristics of depression, they saw improvements. They found the participants felt less depressed during and after exercise for as long as seventy-five minutes, and perhaps even more. Also, those participants were more able to feel pleasure.

For the third major characteristic of depression, decreased cognitive function, the results were less clear. The team says more research is needed.

The researchers also carried out a pilot study to examine the effect of exercise on patients before they talk to a therapist. The results suggested that by exercising before therapy, patients are able to form a quicker and stronger relationship with their therapists.

Unfortunately, finding the motivation to exercise or attempt something new is extra-challenging for depressed people. Hopefully, it is encouraging to know that exercise can alter how the following hours feel and reduce the severity of symptoms of depression.

Sources: healthline.com, thehill.com, sciencedaily.com

For source links, see the article on ESLNewsStories.com

Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Aid (v) - to help
  • Depression (n) - a medical condition in which a person feels very sad and hopeless
  • Endurance (n) - the ability to do something difficult or painful for a long time
  • Alter (v) - to change
  • Survey (v) - to investigate the behavior or opinions of people by asking them questions
  • Participant (n) - a person who takes part in something, in this case the people who were surveyed
  • Cognitive function (n) - related to the ability to think
  • Carry out (phr. v) - to do something
  • Pilot study (n) - a small study that can help determine if a larger study should be done
  • Therapist (n) - a person whose job is to treat mental or physical illness with therapy
  • Severity (n) - the strength of something bad or harmful


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. Have you found that exercise changes your mood? How?
  3. How active is your everyday life? Do you spend most of it sitting down? How could you be more active?
  4. Does everyone experience the same range of emotions? Or do people feel some emotions more strongly and for longer?
  5. How is depression different from sadness?
  6. Some people like sad music and movies. Do people like to feel sad?
  7. How would you try to help a friend that was suffering from depression?
  8. In some cultures, therapy is quite popular. Would you be open to seeing a therapist? Why or why not?
  9. Were you surprised by the results explained in the article? Are these research results helpful?
  10. The research did not focus on diet, but do you think what people eat affects our emotions as well?